Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or “PTSD,” is classified as an anxiety disorder, and plagues an estimated 7.8 percent of Americans at some point of their lives. This severe anxiety replays itself in the victim through flashbacks or nightmares and is grave enough to prevent sufferers from living fulfilling, peaceful lives. PTSD is diagnosed after a victim experiences a traumatic event, which means that it has the potential to affect any person with no regards to current mental health. There are claims, however, that certain personalities are more likely to suffer PTSD compared to others. Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD, and some of the highest rates of PTSD are found in the military, where combat and war zones easily accumulate traumatic events.
It is widely accepted that properly diagnosing PTSD is difficult for psychologists. There are several reasons for this. It is necessary for patients to exhibit not only the symptoms present with PTSD, but patients must also have suffered through a traumatic event. Since most patients refrain from discussing experienced trauma in their lives, many psychologists cannot correctly diagnose them with PTSD. Because PTSD is an anxiety disorder, it may include many other psychological impairments: depression, insomnia, paranoia, reclusion, and substance abuse, among others.
Accurately diagnosing PTSD can be difficult when so many other mental illnesses are present. Many doctors, unfortunately, do not recognize PTSD as a disorder. The inability to see traumatized patients as needing help has led many psychologists to ignore the problem altogether. Any psychological burden dealing with topics as grave as sexual, physical, and mental abuse are difficult for even psychologists to talk about, which leads to many doctors misdiagnosing out of ease.
Many forms of treatment exist for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is crucial for those who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD to get help immediately. Access to therapy improves the chances of a victim fully recovering (“Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help”). Cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on trauma is one of the most popular ways of treating PTSD. This method exposes sufferers to their trauma by encouraging thoughts of the experience. This allows victims to become desensitized to certain aspects of their experience, instead of avoiding it at all costs, like most sufferers of PTSD do. Many psychologists use a form of EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This method incorporates rhythmic eye movements that are proven to help the brain process information. During stressful moments, the brain “freezes” and does not allow information to be processed. This technique creates a way for victims to process thoughts and feelings while under heavy amounts of duress when recalling traumatic events.
Along with these forms of treatment, there is the obvious treatment of medication. Antidepressants, anxiety medications, and other forms of medicine help sufferers cope with pain. However, these medications do little to solve the core issue that revolves around PTSD: coping with a traumatic event.
As stated earlier, many participants in military combat suffer PTSD. Exposure to combat can spark PTSD in personalities that were unlikely to develop any mental disorders. There are other events that lead many people to developing PTSD. Some of the most common examples include military combat, rape, physical abuse, the threatening of one’s life, and sexual molestation (“The Link Between Trauma and PTSD”, 2010.). One of the things that can increase a person’s chances of developing PTSD is the amount of trauma the victim has suffered. Multiple instances of exposure to trauma increases the likelihood that the sufferer will be affected. If a victim has history of mental illness in his family, he is also more likely to develop this disorder. Other variances include the amount of support that is given after the incident, and the extent of pain or discomfort that was experienced during the trauma. Some people will not be affected as severely by events that would cause post-traumatic stress in others.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very serious and prevalent issue in our society. Learning how it affects us, what causes it, and how to treat it are critical steps to make to ensure the health and vigor of our citizens. Raising awareness for PTSD will help its acceptance grow; as of right now, there are still psychologists that deny it as a legitimate disorder. This mindset belittles the thousands of men, women, and veterans who struggle daily with post-traumatic stress disorder.